Dr. Juanita-Dawne Bacsu’s research at TRU focuses on improving health equity and quality of life of rural older adults living with dementia, supported by federal funding of $600,000. (TRU Photo)

Dr. Juanita-Dawne Bacsu’s research at TRU focuses on improving health equity and quality of life of rural older adults living with dementia, supported by federal funding of $600,000. (TRU Photo)

Rural dementia patients focus of five-year study at TRU

Goal is to improve health equity and ability for older people in small communities to age in place

By Michele Young

Thompson Rivers University

KAMLOOPS–A new faculty member at Thompson Rivers University (TRU) has been awarded a Canada Research Chair (CRC) in Nursing and Population Health. Dr. Juanita-Dawne Bacsu’s research focuses on improving health equity and quality of life of rural older adults living with dementia, supported by federal funding of $600,000.

The goal of her research is to improve the health equity and ability for older people in small communities to age in place.

“Improving stigma and knowledge of dementia in rural communities requires local input and lived experience, and the development of interventions to address not only the biomedical determinants, but also the social determinants of health such as education and social support,” Bascu said.

The Canada Research Chairs Program invests up to $311 million per year to attract and retain exceptional emerging researchers with the potential to lead in their field. Bacsu, who arrived at TRU in September, is the sixth Canada Research Chair at the university.

Using innovative population health intervention research and partnering with several rural B.C. communities, her studies will develop and evaluate individual, community, policy and societal-level interventions. Collaborators will include health-care practitioners, community partners, policymakers and rural people with dementia and their care partners. This research will provide valuable information to improve the health equity and quality of life for rural older adults with dementia and their family care partners.

The awarding of this CRC to Bacsu highlights the fact that her work in health care has the potential to cause life-changing outcomes for people in need, said TRU President Brett Fairbairn.

“It is incredibly exciting to see another TRU faculty member awarded such an important and distinguished honour as a Canada Research Chair. This award will enable Dr. Bacsu to pursue her work more intently, something that will inevitably benefit all of us. Dr. Bacsu’s research in health for rural older adults is meaningful and will impact people’s lives. I am grateful that the federal government agrees,” Fairbairn said.

“The CRC program is vital for the growth and development of TRU’s research enterprise,” said Dr. Will Garrett-Petts, TRU Vice-President Research (Interim). “Dr. Bacsu’s focus on providing equitable access to health care could not be more timely, and aligns well with TRU’s goal of becoming a leading institution in Canada for community-engaged research and student research training.”

Bascu’s CRC funding was part of funding announced Wednesday by the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. More than $6 million was allocated in the announcement to support 29 Canada Research Chairs at 22 universities across the country.

Bacsu has also received nearly $70,000 in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) to support the development of the Population Health and Aging Rural Research (PHARR) Centre on the TRU Kamloops campus. The Centre focuses on creating interventions and educational supports based on the perspectives of rural older adults with dementia and their family care partners.

This contribution, through the CFI’s John R. Evans Leaders Fund, will help universities compete to recruit and retain exceptional researchers by investing in the cutting-edge research infrastructure they need.